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The Way not just the Truth

For those of you who know me, you will know I am not a proponent for thoughtless Christianity, but for those of us who are inclined to the analytical, we need reminders that we think well in order to enact well and I’ve found Francis of Assisi to be a helpful voice to encourage me;

Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to 5. Heart is used 42 times to 1 use of mind. Love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth. Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only 1 time.
This is a very new perspective that is clearly different from (and an antidote to) the verbally argumentative Christianity of his time, and from the highly academic theology that would hold sway from then on. Francis took prayer on the road and into the activity of life itself, which is why the Franciscans popularized the portable, small psalter that we still call the breviary (brevis or short handbook). – Richard Rohr on Francis

The loudest voices in Christianity often seem to be ones advocating for the ditches on either side of the metaphorical road. Of course, we are tempted to be drawn to one ditch or another, but attempting to argue there is only one ditch is what has led to a fragmented in-fighting bride. Our Spiritual formation and discipleship would do well if we immersed ourselves in voices that call us not only to what we already believe and practise but also to the other side.

As is well known, the first Christians identified themselves as The way, with Christian being a later and derogatory label meaning “Little Christ’s”. I wonder if Christianity would look any differently if we have clung to the first label? The Way which is a clearly naming that christianity has to be practised not only intellectually considered. Maybe a name would not be enough, but those who go on the way without thinking will eventually lose their way, and those who think without practising the way will be the most tragically positioned of all in eternity.

In Jesus’ famous statement in John 14:6 it is worth us paying attention the order in which he says first;
1. I am the way.. – We only enter into Christian life through our steps and actions
2. I am the truth.. – We encounter truth not as information but through the participation in the way, unto the realisation that truth is God made flesh, the very person of Jesus not solely factual statements regarding Him.
3. I am the life – Jesus catches up our lives, which become his breath in us, life is for living as the saying goes, and that living extends far beyond our intellectual ascents.

Now maybe Jesus didn’t intend the progression structure I have overlaid on his words, but I think the realities described do mirror many of our experiences in how we move forward in Spiritual formation and Discipleship. We must practise, reflect and live in order to follow Jesus.

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How Evangelical zeal actually says the Bible is not enough

This week Scot McKnight wrote an interesting piece worth reading here. Scot Argues that the characteristic of zeal amongst evangelicals works in two ways;

1. To challenge the sufficiency of scripture by creating identities around extra-biblical boundary markers

For example, the bible says not to be drunk, some evangelical circles may add to this by affirming that drinking alcohol at all is unadvisable if not sinful. In this way although they may stop short of calling their extra-biblical additions sinful it is clear this behaviour dictates whether you are in or out of this particular sub-set of the Church.

2. Zeal creates immunity to accusation

How can someone be mad at someone who, in their enthusiasm, goes above and beyond (a trait the protestant work ethic has always held in high regard)? Scot McKnight argues that this is motivated ultimately by a fear of freedom, a fear that if we left it to the average believer to read the scripture in the presence of Holy Spirit, the outcome may not be the extra-biblical boundary markers the denomination or sub-group was formed around.

Zealotry, at its bottom layer, is the unwillingness (1) to trust God to work in others, (2) to trust others to listen to God, and (3) to trust ourselves to do what God wants. The ambiguity created by freedom is fearful to many, so they make fences and laws — and in so doing, they create a bounded society of zealots who convince themselves that, even though the Bible does not say something, what they are saying is really what the Bible wanted after all.

This temptation to decide what the bible wanted after all is certainly a deep one. We are desperate as I mentioned in an earlier post, to be clear about which group we are in, and that we are addicted to propping our personal and group identities up with second-order things

  • which bible translation,
  • a view on baptism or communion etc,
  • a leaning towards a certain spiritual gift / preaching / prophecy / healing etc.

rather than unifying themes which are certainly more predominant in the new testament.

Inheriting a Protest

In this way we are inheritors of the protestant reformation, the only issue is, as one of my theology professors was keen on saying;

“Protestants are a group of people gathered around protest, the only trouble is, they’ve forgotten what they are protesting against”

I have often concluded this foundational identity of protest is the DNA that continues to encourage the fragmentation of the church, as we have historical-amnesia for the reasons behind the reformation and conclude we are to protest against one another. We are finding ever more minute and petty ways to fragment ourselves instead of marvel at the grace and revelation that exists in the varying church traditions from which we can draw and be nourished.

So we fracture based on our interpretations of scripture, but after all we do need to interpret scripture, right? But what I am getting at here is how we build identities around interpretations. I am more and more convinced we do this not because our primary desire is to be rigourous or even faithful in our interpretation but in fact the strongest desire of most Christians is to belong to a sub-group of Christianity.

But God’s invitation is for us to belong to Him first and foremost. I am not however creating a trajectory for the “lone-ranger believer” phenomena that exists in Christian history currently, but talking about the importance of how we understand our identities as related to God and other Christians.

The Bible is often not as clear as we would like

While I affirm most evangelical interpretations of scripture, We often feel frustrated at the ambiguity of scripture towards issues we want black and white backing for. But before bemoaning what we wish scripture was clear on, we should recognise what is present in the texts. What is present is significant and ordained by God as sufficient for the Church. Depending on how you count there are 76 or 92 One-another statements in the scripture, practical exhortations about how to relate to one another, so clearly the authority of scripture is majoring on this rather than the mulititude of social and moral issues we might like to have pages of scripture dedicated to.

The reason we go beyond the Bible is because the biblical summons is ambiguous, or not as concrete as we might like. There are other reasons, most of them not good. – Scot McKnight

So I began thinking, what interpretations do I affirm, that I would struggle to make a solely scriptural foundation for1, and I came up with a few, maybe you have some?

My rule of thumb for doctrine and interpretation is that there are enough devout, prayerful and Godly people through the history of the church that most interpretations that have continued to have two or more sides over time, are not easily conclusive from scripture (I have picked a short list that I would affirm the traditional evangelical view on but am being honest in saying I can’t argue solely from texts – maybe you can, if so jump in on the comments below).

  • A Ceremony being the biblical starting point of a marriage
  • Children may not be baptised until an age of accountability
  • Not giving all your possessions away

What are on your list?

I heartily recommend reading through Scot’s post, it certainly made me consider how evangelical zeal operates in a way that actually undercuts many foundations of the tenets of evaneglicalism and may actually be subverting our ability to have a witness of unity amongst the church. We are tempted to feel like the fragmentation of the Church is due to our fidelity but often, it seems, it is down to our insecurity.


  1. which is not to say, I only affirm things I have proof-texts for, but if the protestant community is gathered around affirmations such as sola scriptura then arguing out of logic or tradition that doesn’t have some clear basis in scripture should trouble us. 
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New Sounds | Music for the Weekend

Here’s a collection of sounds from around the world that you may never have heard before.

A few radio stations (in the US especially) run ‘live lounges’ and here are some bands you’ve likely never heard of.

I doubt everyone will like all of these but you might find something that you can enjoy this weekend (these are from KEXP in Seattle );


Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits | Zimbabwe


Generationals | USA


Read More

Friday Link List | 13th August 2015

Every Friday I’m posting links to things I’ve read this week that I think you might find interesting too, next week I want to start sharing some links readers of the site are finding interesting…If you read something you think should be featured here submit it here, starting your message LINK LIST SUGGESTION.


Typhoons and Travel

As you will have seen this week has been a little slow on the blogging, we travelled back from three weeks in Taiwan and got stuck in Typhoon Soudelor, fortunately we were in the south in Tainan and didn’t experience too much danger.

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Kickstarter Friends

A couple of friends are dreaming up exciting projects that you might want to consider being a part of by contributing up front on their kickstarter and then receiving their final products once they’re done.

Andrew Breitenberg AKA Selah, producing the Book of Mark as an overflow of his parallel bible platform connecting beautiful images to scripture. See more here

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Liana and Jason Stone who we’ve been fortunate enough to play music with in the past are going to put together a new album which will be great. See more here

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Floyd McClung blogging

Speaking of Selah, our friend Floyd McClung who is on sabbatical this year in the US posted two worthwhile posts this past week;

  • A Guest post on Selah / ‘to pause’ from Mark Buckley
  • Jesus Loves Africa – This simply articulates so much of why we are based in south africa, and the way we feel called to live out following Jesus here;

Sally and I feel called to give the rest of our lives to invest in the leaders and the church in Africa. Why? Because the church is the hope of Africa. Every African leader needs friends who believe in them – and who will invest in their lives through friendship and discipleship.

This calling has ‘caught’ with us in a deep way..


Writing on an iPad

Although I don’t own an iPad anymore, I’m fascinated by a movement of people who are giving up computers and doing even complex computing tasks on an iPad. It does seem like writing could be one of its greatest strengths, read more on Tools an Toys here


Meteor Showers

Here are some pretty spectacular shots on Flickr of Meteor showers, just incredible

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The Adventure you’ve been longing for

I like Allan Bevere’s post about needing more sense of adventure in western society, and how the gospel is intended to meet that inner desire..Read more here

Several months prior to departure he put the following ad in the London paper:

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.

Human beings long to give themselves to a great cause. It may not be a hazardous trip to the South Pole, but most human beings desire to be part of something that makes their lives count for something more than living the routine. We want our lives to be spent for something important.


Having made a trip to India and Taiwan this year, I can say there is some necessity to a book like this “Going Abroad: How to Answer the Call of Nature Anywhere in the World” – A Bathroom survival guide

At one end of the spectrum, there is the squat toilet. This may appear to be simply a porcelain hole in the ground with foot rests, but you can learn to use it.

. The problems at the other end of the spectrum involve high tech toilets in more advanced countries, particularly Japan. The important thing is to learn how to flush them without needing to call down to the hotel reception desk for assistance.

Read more here


Religion is inherently political

My old friend Arni Zachariassen from the Faroes wrote a great piece on The Religios being political.

I spent the last week trying to teach on discipleship to taiwanese college students, and this quote from Lindbeck sums up much of what I was trying to encourage them, to get inside the story;

“To become a Christian involves learning the story of Israel and of Jesus well enough to interpret and experience oneself and one’s world in its terms. A religion… molds and shapes the self and its world” (Lindbeck, 34).

Arni sums up the whole post brilliantly;

(1) politics are religious since they are reflections of what we believe and (2) secularism, despite advocating for a non-religious space, is religious because it is making implicit theological claims regarding the limits and place of religion.


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Jim Martin on Essential practises

As Ever Jim Martin is writing simple yet profound lists, check out his marriage series and this 4 Essential practises for church leaders, could easily be, practises for all christians…

1. Take Care of your mind

Some read only the latest books from well-known preachers. The mind, however, needs exercise. For many years I have read widely

2. Take Care of your soul

…one must be intentional about cultivating a heart that is available for what God wishes to do in that person’s life.

3. Take care of your emotions

Frankly, having a few healthy friendships can help a person with emotional care. Yet, many ministers speak of the loneliness and lack of intimacy that characterizes their lives.

4. Take care of your body

When I was a young minister, several older ministers warned me about this. One person told me that as a young man, he didn’t exercise, rested very little, and neglected his body.

Read more Here

Bon Iver | Perth (Remix)

I’m looking for non-obtrusive music to write to, this Bon Iver track had a nice remix thats sat in the background while I worked last week…

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Friday Link List | 7th August 2015

Every Friday I’m posting links to things I’ve read this week that I think you might find interesting too;

Next week I want to start sharing some links readers of the site are finding interesting…If you read something you think should be featured here submit it here, starting your message LINK LIST SUGGESTION.

Theology


  • A couple of weeks ago, I got myself into the troubled waters of the homosexuality debate critiquing the two common sides of the debate and offering something of a third way. Theologues gave a great run down of some texts from early christianity and their perspective on abortion.

I don’t find myself wanting to snuggle up alongside the Pro-life or Pro-Choice camps for similar reason as I stated in the homosexuality post and think the final advice from Alvin Rapien is an important word to us seeking to not only speak but enact a public witness in the midst of societal moral trends.

While critiquing abortion, early Christians were also saving the lives of children who were abandoned, and then they “baptized them, and brought them up with the aid of community funds” (Durant, 751). Here is where you find the secret of early Christianity: while critiquing the culture around it, it was a movement of grace. Perhaps this is what true Christianity looks like.

I have seen tiny churches pastored by guys with egos and arrogance the size of Texas. I have seen megachurches pastored by guys so humble you would think they held no authority at all.

Read more at Missional Church Network here


CS-Lewisburt

  • On the Emerging Scholars blog a review of a book about CS Lewis and his contributions to Spiritual Formation (known more recently as discipleship) – and includes this great observation on a life of prayer;

The longer I go, the more true I find Lewis’s statement on truly praying: “May it be the real I that speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.” So many problems I’ve had in prayer come of speaking from a “false self” and speaking to false perceptions of God

and some more of Lewis’ wisdom on Doubt in Faith;

He wisely counsels in terms of doubt that we should never try to make ourselves think or feel in a certain way, but simply to continue to live in the Way, both pursuing the questions honestly that we wrestle with and continuing to act in obedient faith in the things not in question.

Read more here


Carthusians

  • The Story of Monasticism makes for an interesting read on addressing mis-conceptions of monasticism and how we might recover some of the aspect of it for a more fully christian and devoted life. Read more here

Miscellany

In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas, no lion has ever been beloved, or granted an affectionate nickname. They are objects of terror.

We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.

catan



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We’ve been in Taiwan for the last few weeks | Check out our view at www.LiamByrn.es

Unbelievable Video of Robbie Madison riding a motorbike at teahupoo in tahiti

This took more guts that it even looks like. I’ve spoken to a south african who rode that wave and confirms it is HEAVY…

The Theology of Shine, Jesus Shine